Aug 23

Police chiefs: Our communities need afterschool!

One of the greatest benefits of quality afterschool programs is their ability to keep kids safe and engaged in learning after the end of the school day. That work isn’t going unnoticed: recently, we’ve seen a spate of police chiefs lending their voices to support afterschool and the positive impact it has on their communities.

Afterschool programs work,” Chief Russel B. Laine of the Fox Lake Police Department in Illinois wrote to the Northwest Herald.

Of a recent trip to the Illinois state capitol, Chief Laine recalled, “We asked that policymakers settle our state budget problems in a way that shores up some of Illinois’ most important weapons for fighting crime: proven investments in the well-being of children and youth.” Chief Laine emphasized that afterschool programs “help keep troubled youth off the streets during ‘prime time for juvenile crime,’ and help increase graduation rates.”

On the subject of funding cuts, Chief Laine had a clear message for the community: “Such shortsighted cuts, delays and stagnation hurt children and families throughout our state. But they also significantly set back efforts at reducing crime and violence.”

In “Afterschool funding is a smart public investment,” Paul Williams, Chief of the Springfield Police Department in Missouri, discusses the hours between 2 and 6 p.m., often quoted as “prime time for juvenile crime,” can be prime time for a different activity – “preparing kids to make the right choices and lead productive lives.”

Quality afterschool programs, with their access to recreation, community service, arts and music, and academic assistance, are the key to filling those hours with new opportunities, especially for youth in need. Chief Williams reminds Missourians that 25 percent of kids in the state are “responsible for taking care of themselves after school,” and only “only one in three families who want their kids to participate in after-school activities have access to a local program.”

“I don’t want to think about the consequences of losing this federal funding for our state’s programs,” Chief Williams says. “By every measure, funding for these important programs is an investment that parents, kids and taxpayers can bank on in the years to come.”

These statistics, and Williams’ passion, remind us that communities just cannot afford to lose their afterschool programs.

Norman, Oklahoma police chief Keith Humphrey agrees.

“As the father of three great children and someone who wants all kids to grow up in safe and nurturing places, I’d support these programs regardless of what I did for a living. As someone in law enforcement, I do so based on their strong potential impact on public safety,” he writes.

“Over the long run, research shows these programs can increase social-emotional skill development, classroom behavior, school attendance and high school graduation rates. That matters a lot to those of us in law enforcement because high school dropouts are three times more likely to be arrested and eight times more likely to be incarcerated than those who do graduate.”

Humphrey urges lawmakers to support federal investment in afterschool programs, especially because “high-quality programs can provide a return of $3 to $13 for every dollar that’s invested.”

Afterschool program funding is vital to public safety,” write Chief Charlie Beck of the Los Angeles Police Department and Chief Steven K. Zipperman of the Los Angeles School Police Department.

Their op-ed in the Lost Angeles Daily News reminds readers that afterschool programs “ensure a safe learning environment for the entire school community.”

“With over 72 years of law enforcement experience between us, we can tell that you that giving city kids a safe space to play after school is one of the best crime-prevention tools in our box,” the chiefs write.

In Los Angeles, police work with students after school through LAPD’s Police Activities League and LASPD’s Youth Programs, which “provide educational, athletic and other recreational activities to help connect police officers and the youth in our communities.”

Why would a police department run youth activities? “By keeping kids supervised and engaged, afterschool programs not only help children develop but also reduce crime and delinquency.”

Interested in how you can connect afterschool programs with law enforcement agencies? Check out our webinar, “Building Community between Police and Youth,” to hear from the experts and find more resources.